Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Chinese opacity, Barack to Burma, $1 trillion man, $2.7 trillion list

November 8, 2012
November 8, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

More opaque pronouncements from Beijing. The 18th Communist Party congress, which began yesterday and will culminate in the unveiling of a new leadership next week, continues. Beijingologists will be looking out for more clues to future policy after outgoing leader Hu Jintao’s enigmatic injunction yesterday to “not take the old path that is closed and rigid, nor must we take the evil road of changing flags and banners.” Hu also called for a doubling of both household income and GDP by 2020, to be achieved by “steadily enhanc[ing] the vitality of the state-owned sector of the economy and its capacity to leverage and influence the economy.” The FT has a useful walk-through for anyone following along at home.

An Anglo-Indian booze-up. Diageo, the UK-based global liquor giant behind brands like Johnny Walker and Smirnoff,  is in the process of finalizing the purchase of a 50% share in India’s largest liquor distributor, United Spirits Ltd. That share in USL, which sells half of India’s liquor in a market that has grown 10% per year, will be worth $2 billion, making this one of the country’s most significant foreign acquisitions in years.

While you were sleeping

Barack to Burma. The newly re-elected President Barack Obama will tour Asia in November and will cap the trip with the first ever visit by an American president to Myanmar, where American diplomatic pressure has contributed to recent advances in human rights and a new government. Obama will meet with Nobel Peace Prize-winning democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi; he’ll also visit Cambodia and Thailand.

Greece’s creditors argued over repayment plans as a deadline approaches. Having just passed a budget to agree to the austerity conditions imposed by the IMF, the ECB and European governments, Greece now needs to figure out a deal with them by Nov. 15 on debt repayment schedules in order to get its next tranche of aid. If it doesn’t get it, the country could default on €5 billion in bond payments.

In Syria’s civil war, President Bashar al-Assad warned against foreign intervention. The embattled leader gave an interview with Russian television promising to live and die in his war-torn country.

Europe’s central banks stand pat. On a day when many observers expected at least moderate easing from the Bank of England or the European Central Bank, neither delivered. In London, BOE discontinued its asset purchase program after a solid quarter of Olympics-driven growth and despite fears of continued weakness, while in Hamburg, ECB chief Mario Draghi kept rates at 0.75% even though there’s nothing but bad news recently from Germany, the Euro’s leading economy.

UBS faces a probe. The Swiss bank’s German subsidiary is being investigated on suspicion of illicitly transferring client funds to Switzerland, potentially adding yet another chapter to the long-running saga of banks behaving badly.

Quartz obsession interlude

Naomi Rovnick on India’s $1 trillion man, Kamal Nath: “Every few months, he pops up at a foreign investment forum or press conference to proclaim that he has a “trillion dollar budget” for infrastructure. Talk—even $1 trillion talk —is cheap. But India isn’t making any progress on its potholed roads. The Times of India reported on Nov. 5 that while the government has targeted building 9,500 km of new roads by March 2013, just 600 km of contracts have so far been awarded by the National Highways Agency. Private companies in India seemingly do not want long term infrastructure projects.” Read more here

Matters of debate

Can Rio secure the favelas before Brazil hosts the World Cup and the Olympics? The country launches a new anti-gang push.

Why did Obama win reelection when so many of his global peers lost? The secret’s in the stimulus.

Mitt Romney lost the election because of a shameful record on immigration policy. Real talk from a chagrined Wall Street Republican.

Hurricane Sandy is a warning sign. America should prepare for the coming wave of scarcity.

Surprising discoveries

The founder of the anti-virus industry is holed up in the jungles of Belize. That actually sounds quite nice.

NASA set to unveil secret post-election plans for moonbase. And it’s going to be on the dark side!

Donald Trump’s absurd comb-over is patented. So is the wheel. And other examples of a intellectual property gone mad.

The world’s 200 richest people. Mexican titan Carlos Slim, with a net worth of $77.5 billion, tops the list, who are collectively worth $2.7 trillion. To put that in perspective, he could purchase the entire yearly economic output of a country like Ecuador and still be higher on the list than Mark Zuckerberg, no. 88. The new list, compiled by Bloomberg, also includes 30 new “hidden billionaires”, and the man who rose from being a poor soda-seller to mainland China’s richest person.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, billion-dollar liquor deals and insights into China’s Politburo to hi@qz.com.

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